Murphy, Jim. The Giant and How He Humbugged America.
1 October 2012, Scholastic. ARC from Netgalley.com
It's hard for middle school students to understand how hard up for entertainment people were in the 1860s-- heck, they have trouble believing there were only four television channels forty years ago. But at the time, the discovery of a ten foot tall fossilized "man" in New York State was big news. Scientists and other experts were brought in to opine of the nature of the find, newspapers reported eagerly, and people came from all over to see the Cardiff Giant. Early on, there were doubts as to the authenticity of the "man", but this did not lessen the appeal of seeing it. In fact, after Barnum was not able to purchase it for his own shows, he had one made, and THAT attracted large crowds. Eventually, facts came to light that the Giant was a hoax, and interest in it died down.
Strengths: Murphy always does a great job of researching any topic, and his writing is breezy and interesting.
Weaknesses: In an afterword, Murphy discusses how he had been interested initially in doing a book about Bernie Madoff or Ponzi, but he didn't find either man compelling enough to research. I felt rather the same way about this book-- the Cardiff Giant was of limited interest to me. The illustrations were sometimes rather random; having just read His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg and enjoyed the photos, documents, etc. so much, I found the lack of pertinent illustrations disappointing. Perhaps this will be different in the print version.